TDF Teaching Artists

The people behind our education programs

Kate Bell is a writer, theater-maker, singer/songwriter, and teaching artist.  Her plays have been produced or developed in New York at the Downtown Urban Arts Festival at HERE Arts Center, Culture Project, Theater for the New City, Red Fern Theatre Company, Sanguine Theater Company, Naked Angels Tuesdays @ 9, and at Baruch College (with Committed Theatre), and regionally in the Appalachian Play Festival at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, VA.  Past honors include the Audience Award at the 2015 DUTF and two Hopwood Awards at the University of Michigan, where she earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing.  Her plays have been published on Indie Theater Now and in The Book of Estrogenius; she’s also collaborated with the New York Philharmonic writing for their Very Young People’s Concerts.  She founded the Lower Manhattan Arts Academy Theater Ensemble in 2005, and directed nineteen productions there during her nine-year tenure.  As a musician, she’s currently playing bass and singing for the Brooklyn-based rock band, The Reverse Engineers. Kate’s been a Teaching Artist in New York City since 2004, and is currently working with TDF, Marquis Studios, Park Avenue Armory, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, Elders Share the Arts, and Voices Unbroken.  For more information visit:

Becca Bernard is a performance artist and educator who specializes in both ensemble and original devised theater. In addition to performing onstage as an actor, she is a resident clown for the Zany Umbrella Circus, the hospital organization Lev Leytzan and has toured with her solo performance The Fainting Room as part of the Cincinnati, Minnesota, Elgin Fringe and NY Clown Theatre Festivals. As an educator, she has worked with a variety of different age levels and programs in the city including Queens Theatre, the Big Apple Circus, Robert Louis Stevenson School and as a trainer for the CUNY Master Teacher's Institute. Becca studied Commedia Dell’ Arte, mask performance and clown at the Accademia Dell Arte in Arezzo, Italy and has an MFA in theatre pedagogy from Virginia Commonwealth University.  

Athena Colón  is a native New York Actress and Teaching Artist. While earning her BFA in Theater from Long Island University, C.W. Post, she co-created a physical theater performance ‘THIRD CHILD’ which toured in Italy, Czech Republic, Peru and New York City. She recently performed ‘LUNA GALE’ at The Cleveland Playhouse. Her recent TV credits include: Tracy Morgan’s ‘LAST O.G.’, CBS’s ‘BULL,’ Martin Scorsese’s ‘VYNIL’ and LAW & ORDER: SVU. When not acting on stage or film, Athena passionately teaches basic acting techniques and conducts theater workshops to over five hundred youth annually. She proudly collaborates with the Theater Development Fund, Family Life Theater, Repertorio Español, Manhattan Theater Club and Heidi Miami Marshall’s Acting Studio in New York. Athena also loves Pizza!

Adam Crescenzi
is a director, published playwright, and educator who has been making theatre with communities of all ages in New York City and beyond for the last eighteen years. He holds a Master of Arts from New York University and a Bachelor of Arts from Vassar College. He is a proud proponent of arts education.

Neil Dawson  is a NYC based actor and teaching artist originally from Bronx, NY. Acting credits include Stick Fly (Majestic Theater), The Blacks(Classic Stage Company), Ain't Supposed to Die... (Classical Theatre of Harlem) , Intimate Apparel (Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater), 365 Days/365 Plays (Public Theater), AmericanBlackout (NY Fringe Festival), Macbeth (Bonn International Theater Festival), Brooklyn Bridge(Children's Theatre of Minneapolis), Black Man Rising (National Black Theatre Festival), Flambeaux (Theater for the New City), Fires in the Mirror (Cincinnati Playhouse) TV: Law and OrderToday Show, national commercials, voice-overs, industrials.  When he's not performing, he mentors high school boys at the Eagle Academy for Young Men and facilitates workshops throughout NYC works as a Master Teaching Artist for Theatre Development Fund, New Victory Theater and The DreamYard Project. Education: BA, Temple University.  MFA, University of Washington Professional Actor Training Program.

Chesray Dolpha
is a Cape Flats native from Cape Town, South Africa. In 2002 she became one of the founding members of Brown Paper Drama Studio. It was an extracurricular theatre program focused on teaching students to use physicality and the strength of their voice to tell their story. Currently, Chesray is one of the lead-teaching artists for the International Theatre and Literacy Project (ITLP) based in New York City. Through a three-week residency programs students are taught play writing and acting, culminating in a performance. Also in New York City, Chesray was a full time Program Director at Urban Arts Partnership where she managed art programming in a portfolio of 14 public schools in Brooklyn. In her free time, Chesray is building an African print clothing line, AMARA Fashion. Her mother was her style icon who loved to wear bright colors and Chesray is following suit. 

Carrie Ellman-Larsen
is a Brooklyn based teaching artist and applied theatre practitioner and has been working in NYC schools and CBOs since 2005.  Passionate about the power of story, Carrie loves to create original theatre with actors and non-actors based on history and current political issues.  Carrie has a BFA in Theatre from NYU Tisch School of the Arts and an MA in Applied Theatre from CUNY School of Professional Studies.  She has worked with The Theatre Development Fund since 2007 and other arts organizations such as The Roundabout Theatre Company and Arts Connection, to name a few.  Carrie is currently planning on starting a documentary theatre piece with survivors of breast cancer and their caregivers. 

Noelle Ghoussaini is a director, playwright and educator. She creates immersive and inter-disciplinary performance that examines and re-imagines our society within a political, social and cultural context. Recent Projects include: Acquittal (Director, Pan Asian Rep), 6 views: on women of power and interest (Creator / Performer, Venice Biennale), Mariposa and the Saint by Julia Steele Allen (Dir. National Tour), There is a Field by Jen Marlowe (Dir. National Tour.) HKEELEE by Leila Buck, (Dir. Mosaic Theatre). A Doll’s House: REMIX edited by Heather Raffo. (Dir. Epic Theatre). Phoenicia Flowers (Director / Playwright. Noor Theatre) Upcoming: A Skate Play (Director / Adaptor, Jenin Freedom Theatre), Fatima and her Pigeon (Playwright. The Flea Theatre, commission). Dreamscapes (Director / Creator, Naked Angels Lab). Noelle has also been teaching theatre, playwriting and dance for over a decade with organizations such as TDF, New York Theatre Workshop, the Jenin Freedom Theatre and viBe theatre, among others. Noelle is the recipient of the Laundromat Project Create Change Fellowship, was a New York Theatre Workshop 2050 directing fellow, a Hemispheric Institute fellow for artist activists and a member of the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab. M.A. Arts Politics (NYU, Tisch).

Lisa Hershey has been involved in the world of theatre education for over twenty-five years. She is the Program Supervisor for Theatre Development Fund’s Tony Honored Open Doors program. Lisa serves as a Theatre Mentor for the Arthur Miller Foundation for Theatre and Film Education and the NYC Dept. of Education Arts Matter Program. She is also a Supervisor of Student Teachers for CCNY’s Graduate Program in Educational Theatre. Lisa also works as a teaching artist for TDF’s Stage Doors, NJPAC and The Institute of Music for Children. She taught theatre for over ten years in NYC public and independent schools, pre-K through college level, including New York University, Talent Unlimited High School, The Bronxville School and Packer Collegiate Institute.  She has directed over twenty-five productions, including Oliver!, for which she was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Direction. Lisa has worked as an actress, director, playwright and producer, studied acting with Uta Hagen and directing at the Yale Summer Theatre Institute.  She has a B.A. in English and Theatre from Barnard College and an M.A. in Educational Theatre from NYU.  

Rachel Kara Pérez is a​n educator and award-winning ​actor​ and ​singer based in New York City. ​As a Teaching Artist​ for​ the Theatre Development Fund (TDF),​ she works in the Stage Doors Program, leading residencies in NYC schools to expose students to theatre, showing them how it can be a vital part of their everyday lives.  As a Program Facilitator for Artists Striving To End Poverty (ASTEP), ​Rachel Kara ​serves as a liaison between the organization, the Volunteer Teaching Artists, and the school where they lead classes in the arts to a Spanish-speaking population of unaccompanied minors.  She is also involved with R.Evolución Latina​, which works to empower the Latino community through the arts, and recently participated in their professional training program, the Beyond Workshop Series​. ​Her performance experience and training covers a variety of genres, including drama, music, and dance.  ​With a​ ​repertoire ranging from classical to Afro-Cuban Jazz, she has appeared in concert at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Jazz at Lincoln Center. Recent projects include: Clemenza in the World Premiere of CONVICTED, in the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival; Broadway Close Up: One Hit Wonders, a concert at Merkin Hall led by Tony Nominee Mark Jacoby; a vocalist for choreographer Beth Gill's CATACOMB; dancer/vocalist in The Sound of His Living by Bianca Johnson & Dancers; Charlie in Newton’s Cradle directed by Victoria Clark at the New York Musical Festival; and The Concubine in Art of Memory, a new opera workshopped through American Opera Projects. A member of Actors’ Equity and a Latin Grammy nominated musician, she holds a Master’s Degree in Classical Voice from Manhattan School of Music and a Bachelor’s in Theatre Arts, ​minoring in Sociology with a focus on race, sex, and gender politics ​from Marymount Manhattan College. ​Rachel Kara ​views teaching as her activism, ​and centers much of her work on educating and uplifting children through the arts.

Tom Picasso is a professional theatre and teaching artist based out of Brooklyn, NY. As an actor, he has appeared across NYC at Classic Stage Company, Dixon Place, Duplex Cabaret Theatre, and the Laurie Beechman Theatre among others. As a voice-over artist he can be heard on many audiobooks including the NYTtimes bestseller, THE REASON I JUMP, as well as the YA novels SALT and PRISONER 88.  He can also be heard announcing for the COZI-TV cable channel from NBCUniversal. Tom attended The University of Kansas and the Case Western Reserve University - Cleveland Play House Graduate Acting Program.  As a teaching artist, he currently works with Theatre Development Fund in their Stage Doors program.  Other organizations have included the American Place Theatre - Literature to Life Program and Classic Stage Company.  He is currently in development of a solo-musical entitled THE GREAT ESCAPE OF ALEXANDER MATISSE which had a reading at The Silent Barn in Bushwick, Brooklyn. He is originally from Overland Park, Kansas.  

Crystal Skillman is the author of Geek, Cut, and King Kirby, co-written with Fred Van Lente, all NYTimes Critics picks, as well as Rain and Zoe Save the World, Pulp Vérité, Another Kind of Love, and The Test. She is the musical theater book writer of Mary and Max, based on the claymation film, with composer/lyricist Bobby Cronin and director Stafford Arima. Awards include a NY Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Full-Length. She just finished the original TV pilot for her series Paper Heroes, co-created and written with Fred Van Lente. Crystal is represented by UTA. Currently, she is a Playwriting Professor at Pace University as well as Primary Stages’s ESPA Program and has been a guest instructor at Rutgers University, Playwrights Horizons School, Irish Arts Center, and the Broadway Dreams Foundation. She has had the great joy of teaching for TDF’s tremendous playwriting programs for the past five years. Crystal’s plays have been taught, commissioned /produced in the drama departments of: Atlantic Theater Company School, Stella Alder, Lee Strasberg Institute, New York Film Institute, University of Chicago, Hampshire College, Boston University, West Texas A &M,  and Carnegie Mellon. Her plays are published with Samuel French.

Lisa Strum is an actress, playwright, producer, director, singer and educator. She received an MFA in Acting from the University of Washington in Seattle and has performed in regional theatres all across the country.  As an actor, Lisa has performed at Lincoln Center Theatre where she worked with Tony Award winning director Thomas Kail, Summer Stage, Signature Theatre, New Federal Theatre, Intiman Theatre, The Obie Award Winning 48 Hours in…Harlem, ACT Seattle, and The Fifth Avenue Theatre. Lisa has also had a recurring role on Law & Order: SVU and co-stared in the television pilot Citizen Baines with James Cromwell from BABE and LA Confidential.  As an educational consultant, she has worked in numerous public schools throughout New York, conducted theatre workshops for Teachers College at Columbia University, and was the Theatre Specialist for the Abrons Arts Center, Barbara L. Tate Arts Camp for nine seasons.  Lisa was a Finalist for the Doric Wilson Independent Playwright Award and a recipient of the Playwrights Initiative Fellowship at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program.

Channie Waites is a performing artist, director, facilitator, educator and program consultant. She has worked and collaborated with youth, senior citizens and social justice leadership programs in the United States, Rwanda and South Africa. She has toured and performed professionally within the United States and abroad. She is currently performing a one-person adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel If Beale Street Could Talk, produced by Young Audiences New York. Channie has received several honors and acknowledgements for her audiobook narrations. Channie has been co-program director for The International Theater and Literacy Project (ITLP) –Rwanda for the last four years where she has co-directed four original plays devised by youth in Rwanda. Channie has worked for People’s Theatre Project, WNYC, The Phyllis Rose Dance Company, Creative Arts Team and The August Wilson Monologue Competition. She is an actor for Only Make Believe NYC. Channie was also co-founder of Capacity Arts, a theatre collective that created highly interactive historical dramas and developed tailored leadership workshops to lift up untold stories, build empathy across dividing lines, and deepen participants’ analysis of historical and present day conditions. Channie has a M.A. in Applied Theatre from the School of Professional Studies-CUNY, B.A. Penn State University.

Eric "Wally" Wallach creates responsive entertainment and much more. He has directed, choreographed and written many shows across the country and abroad including Millesgården, The End is Here: Enjoy!The Didi Plays and the musicals Suc DaddyThe Jack of Tarts and The Breasts of Tiresias.  He published the true-to-life play titled Interview or Who’s Afraid of Mr. Albee? in the Brooklyn Rail.  He crucified himself in Astor Place in his direct action called Radical Jew, 33. Spaceflight18, Wally’s brainchild since 2002, is getting ready to set sail for the stars again in 2018. Wally, who received his BA in Theatre at San Diego State University, also continues to bring his own approach to theatre collaboration to students of all ages throughout New York City and beyond.  Wally is a torch-bearer of the great artists he has worked with such as Jack O’Brien, Robert Wilson, Joseph Chaikin and Penny Arcade.  He is a soldier in the army of love, a truth-seeker, soul-plumber and ecstatic dancer. Browse around for scripts, articles, photos and videos.

Joe White graduated Cum Laude from The University Of Rhode Island with a BA in English and a BFA in Theatre. He has been an active member of the theatre community in New York City for 38 years, performing in off-Broadway theatres, including So-Ho Rep, The Public Theatre, West Side Arts Theatre and Ensemble Studio Theatre. He has performed at the Edinburgh Theatre Festival, toured India and acted in Regional Theatre. Joe’s film and television acting credits include Goodfellas directed by Martin Scorcese, and numerous episodes of TV's Law and Order and Blue Bloods. As a director, Joe has worked at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, Lincoln Center Institute and The Williamstown Theatre Festival, to name a few. As a Teaching Artist Joe is an Acting Coach at Fordham Law School and teaches playwriting at CWA Union Local 1180. He is a Teaching Artist for Manhattan Theatre Club and Theatre Development Fund. He has spent many years volunteering for The 52nd St Project (a program which brings theatre professionals together with the underserved children in Hell’s Kitchen). Joe is a member of Actors & Writers, a theatre company in the Catskill Mountains of New York, where he maintains a home.

Susan Willerman works with TDF as a teaching artist for Stage Doors and a rep for Open Doors, with Lincoln Center Education as a TA, teaches playwriting to middle school students through the Astoria Performing Arts Center, and since 1995, guides a writing workshop of retirees with Elders Share the Arts. In 1986 she has began as Theatre Instructor for the Coe College (Iowa) New York Term and is now also its Program Coordinator. Her first experiences as a theatre workshop facilitator were with the Imagination Workshop/Creative Alternatives of New York, in 1976, where she was a program artist and later Director of Training until 1989. She has since worked with many arts-in-education organizations throughout New York City as a TA and facilitator of professional development. Susan received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama from Carnegie-Mellon University. She is an actor, writer and director. Member of Ensemble Studio Theater and The Actors Ensemble. Early NY acting -  No Place To Be Somebody, (off-b’way and first Nat’l Tour). Most recent - a staged reading of A Bintel Brief, letters to the editor of the Jewish Daily Forward having to do with immigration in the early 20th century.